On March 27, 2020, FERC denied NorthWestern Corporation’s (“NorthWestern” or the Company) petition for a declaratory order regarding Qualifying Facility (“QF”) avoided cost pricing during times of excess generation. In its petition, NorthWestern asked the Commission to determine that (1) when excess generation occurs, QF pricing should be set to zero, and (2) nothing in the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (“PURPA”), including the rule against non-discrimination in avoided cost pricing, permits establishing a rate in excess of the utility’s avoided cost. In exercising its discretion to deny the petition, FERC did not reject NorthWestern’s request on the merits, but rather, stated that whether avoided energy costs can be zero depends on the facts of the case, and that NorthWestern had failed to provide sufficient information to support its request.

Continue Reading FERC Declines Opportunity to Weigh in on Zero Avoided Cost Pricing under PURPA

On March 17, 2020, FERC accepted revisions to the PJM Interconnection LLC (“PJM”) Open Access Transmission Tariff (“Tariff”) to establish enhanced procedures for compliance with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) reliability standard CIP-024-2.  A majority of FERC Commissioners found that the Tariff revisions, captured in a new proposed Tariff Attachment M-4, appropriately balanced transparency obligations in transmission planning with the need to maintain strict confidentiality regarding the names, locations, and vulnerabilities of CIP-014-2 facilities.  In a separate opinion, Commissioner Glick dissented, in part, arguing that the proposal inappropriately categorized Attachment M-4 projects as a subset of “Supplemental Projects” under the Tariff and PJM Operating Agreement. Commissioner Glick argued that the proposal improperly subjected such projects to non-regional cost allocation, contrary to cost-causation and other transmission planning principles expressed in Commission Order Nos. 890 and 1000.

Continue Reading FERC Accepts Separate Planning Process for CIP-014 Mitigation Projects in PJM

On March 10, 2020, FERC accepted and suspended Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“MISO”) proposal to allow for the selection of a storage facility as a transmission-only asset (“SATOA”) in the MISO Transmission Expansion Plan (“MTEP”). FERC found that MISO failed to demonstrate that the proposal was just and reasonable and not unduly discriminatory, and directed staff to convene a technical conference to explore issues including:

  1. Evaluation and selection criteria for a SATOA in the MTEP;
  2. Permitted market activities for SATOAs and potential wholesale market impacts;
  3. How MISO’s current formula rate structure accommodates cost recovery for SATOAs;
  4. A SATOA’s potential impact on MISO’s generator interconnection queue; and
  5. Operating guidelines that will apply to a SATOA.

Continue Reading FERC Orders Technical Conference on MISO’s Proposal to Include Storage in its Transmission Planning Process

On February 20, 2020, FERC issued a notice of inquiry (“NOI”) to learn more about the potential benefits and risks of virtualization and cloud computing services in the bulk electric system operations. The NOI also seeks information about the barriers that exist in FERC-approved Critical Infrastructure Protection (“CIP”) Reliability Standards that impede the voluntary adoption of virtualization or cloud computing services.

Continue Reading FERC Opens Inquiry into Virtualization and Cloud Computing Services

On January 31, 2020, FERC rejected Southwest Power Pool, Inc.’s (“SPP”) proposed Tariff revisions to eliminate SPP’s current policy of offering transmission revenue credits as reimbursement for certain transmission network upgrades, and to instead provide term- and value-limited transmission congestion rights for all such upgrades. Under SPP’s proposal, a party that funds certain network upgrades would receive incremental transmission congestion rights for a limited term of up to twenty years or until the party that sponsored the upgrade recovered their costs, with interest. FERC held that this cap on recovery would disincentivize construction of merchant transmission projects, and rejected SPP’s proposal without prejudice to SPP submitting a revised proposal that does not impose a cap on the term and value of the incremental transmission congestion rights.
Continue Reading FERC Rejects Without Prejudice SPP Proposal to Eliminate Transmission Revenue Credits and Cap Transmission Congestion Rights

On January 30, 2020, FERC accepted revisions to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”) planning resource auction participation rules for resources expecting extended outages during the planning year.  FERC simultaneously dismissed as moot an earlier-filed complaint by Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative (“Wolverine”) that alleged MISO’s Open Access Transmission, Energy and Operating Reserves Markets Tariff (“Tariff”) was unjust and unreasonable because it allowed resources with MISO-approved outages for the entire planning year to participate in the resource auction.
Continue Reading FERC Accepts MISO Planning Resource Auction Changes and Dismisses Related Complaint as Moot

On January 23, 2020, FERC accepted New York Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“NYISO”) proposed revisions to its Tariffs to allow the aggregation of resources, including distributed energy resources (“DERs”), for purposes of participation in the NYISO markets. FERC found that NYISO’s proposed aggregation model (“Aggregation Participation Model”) provided a just and reasonable and not unduly discriminatory framework for such participation.
Continue Reading FERC Accepts NYISO’s Proposed Aggregation Model for DERs and Other Resources

On January 14, 2019, FERC issued a letter order accepting, as of October 15, 2019, Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s (“MISO”) proposal to implement a “Fast First” Automatic Generation Control (“AGC”) framework that, as MISO argues, would deploy fast-ramping generation resources more efficiently.  MISO explained that the Fast First AGC framework would better utilize and incentivize fast-ramping resources, including energy storage resources (“ESRs”), for frequency regulation.  MISO stated that, with increased supply-side volatility on its system due to integration of intermittent renewable resources, new AGC signals were needed for better system control and to better utilize the fast response rate of fast-ramping resources.
Continue Reading FERC Accepts MISO Frequency Regulation Enhancements Addressing Supply-Side System Volatility

On December 12, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (“Sixth Circuit”) issued an opinion affirming in part and reversing in part a bankruptcy court’s assertion of exclusive and unlimited jurisdiction over certain of FirstEnergy Solutions’ (“FES”) power purchase agreements that FERC had previously approved under the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) and that FES sought to reject in bankruptcy. While the Sixth Circuit agreed that the bankruptcy court has jurisdiction to decide whether FES may reject the contracts, it rejected the bankruptcy court’s decision to enjoin FERC from taking any action relating to the contracts, and permitting FES to reject the contracts. Characterizing the bankruptcy court’s decision as “a rash and unnecessary overreach,” the Sixth Circuit held that the injunction issued against FERC was overly broad, and the bankruptcy court’s standard for deciding whether to permit FES to reject the contracts too limited. The Sixth Circuit also rejected the bankruptcy court’s sole application of the business judgment rule to decide whether to permit FES to reject the contracts at issue. Rather, the Sixth Circuit held that the court should have also taken public interest considerations into account, and should have invited FERC to participate and provide an opinion in accordance with the FPA. Judge Richard Allen Griffin penned separate opinion dissenting in part, in which he concluded that the bankruptcy court exceeded its jurisdiction and infringed on FERC’s exclusive jurisdiction to decide whether to modify or abrogate a filed rate.
Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Holds that Bankruptcy Courts Must Permit FERC Participation in Bankruptcy Proceedings Considering Rejection of FERC-Jurisdictional Contracts

On November 26, 2019, FERC rejected, without prejudice, various filings from Basin Electric Power Cooperative (“Basin”) to establish FERC-jurisdictional rates, terms, and conditions of wholesale power and transmission service ahead of certain anticipated changes among Basin’s member cooperatives that would trigger FERC jurisdiction. FERC generally rejected the filings as “patently” deficient.
Continue Reading FERC Rejects Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Filings Ahead of Anticipated FERC Jurisdictional Status